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Hilario vs. People digest

G.R. NO. 161070, April 14, 2008, THIRD DIVISION, (Austria-Martinez, J.)
John Hilario was charged with 3 counts of murder which, without counsel, he pleaded guilty.
During the trial, Atty. Raul Rivera of the PAO took over representing the client in view of the death of the
latter’s counsel. The RTC subsequently rendered its decision finding the accused guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of homicide and sentenced him to 8 years 1 day of prison mayor and 14 years 8 months
of reclusion temporal.
Unassisted by counsel, Hilario filed a Petition for Relief contending that he was already confined
at the promulgation of the judgement. The RTC dismissed the petition for relief due to failure to perfect
the appeal. Petitioner contends that he has no way to file the notice of appeal except by his lawyer who he
had instructed to do so. However, no notice of appeal was filed by his lawyer in defiance of his clear
instructions. The decision was likewise received by his lawyer but the latter did not inform him of any
action taken thereon. The CA also dismissed his petition for certiorari.
Petitioner contends that the negligence of his counsel de officio cannot be binding on him for the
latter’s defiance of his instruction to appeal automatically breaks the fiduciary relationship between
counsel and client and cannot be against the client who was prejudiced.
Whether or not the delay in appealing the instant case due to the defiance of the petitioner’s
counsel de officio to seasonably file a Notice of Appeal, constitutes excusable negligence to entitle the
undersigned detention prisoner to pursue his appeal?
Yes. We find that the RTC committed grave abuse of discretion in dismissing petitioner’s petition
for relief from judgement. The RTC denied the petition as it found petitioner’s claim that his counsel did
not heed his instruction to file the appeal to be unsubstantiated and self-serving; and that if there was
indeed such omission committed by the counsel, such negligence is binding on the client.
There was no basis for the RTC to dismiss the petition concluding that the claim of petitioner that
he instructed the PAO lawyer to file an appeal as self-serving and unsubstantiated. The RTC's dismissal
of the petition for relief was done with grave abuse of discretion amounting to an undue denial of the
petitioner's right to appeal as it did not touch on the question whether the PAO lawyer was indeed
negligent in not filing the appeal as it merely stated that even if said omission should be considered as
negligence, it is a well-settled rule that negligence of counsel is binding on the client.
As a general rule, negligence of counsel may not be condoned and should bind the client, the
exception is when the negligence of counsel is so gross, reckless and inexcusable that the client is
deprived of his day in court.
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Resolutions dated August 19, 2003 and
November 28, 2003 of the Court of Appeals are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Order dated
December 13, 2002 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 76, is SETASIDE. The RTC is
hereby ordered to require Atty. Raul Rivera of the Public Attorney's Office to file his comment on the
petition for relief from judgment filed by petitioner, hold a hearing thereon, and thereafter rule on the
merits of the petition for relief from judgment, with dispatch.